Fullerton officer helps homeless family off streets

By Tony Dodero

A West Virginia couple and their five kids are heading to a brighter future in Florida rather than hardship on the streets thanks to the dedication of a homeless service organization and a Fullerton Police Department homeless liaison officer.

“I can’t say enough about the Fullerton Police Department,” said Shaun Perry, who moved to California in May with his companion Sarah Jude and their five children, ages from 14 to 3. “It would just be nice if there were more people like that.”

Sarah Jude credited a higher power.

“It’s like a blessing from God,” she said.

The pair moved to California in May looking for a new life. They met in West Virginia when Jude was still recovering from a string of domestic problems and combined Perry’s three kids with her two.

Jude, who grew up in La Habra and Brea, hoped to stay with family but that didn’t work out. So the family wound up in a hotel and the couple began looking for work, but that proved difficult. Before they knew it, they were forced out of the motel.

That’s when Homeless Liaison Officer Cary Tong stepped in. He enlisted the help of the Coast to Coast Foundation and was able to place the family in the Fullerton Lodge Motel and get them some food.

He learned that Perry had a job waiting for him back in Florida, but the family couldn’t afford the $2,000 bus trip.

So Tong raised the money through Coast to Coast and some of his colleagues.

The family had a bus trip booked for Monday night, but money for the motel ran out and they checked out at noon. With several hours to wait before the trip, Officer Tong called the Chuck E Cheese restaurant across from the motel and asked if the family could stay for a few hours. General Manager David Padilla was happy to oblige.

“We want to make sure we took care of the kids,” said Padilla, whose restaurant gave the family of seven food, drinks and game tokens.

Officer Tong has been on the homeless team for the past year and a half and he said this was a nice change of pace, since most of the people he deals with have alcohol and drug abuse problems.

“It’s nice to be able to provide for a family that was just down on their luck,” he said.  “I’ve never been able to help this many people at one time. It’s nice to be able to them back on their feet.”

Contact Tony at TDodero@behindthebadgeoc.com